L.A.'s Artsy Types Display Their Comic Side

The Scene: Thursday's opening-night reception for "High & Low: Modern Art and Popular Culture" at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The show explores the ways that 20th-Century "high" and "low" art have influenced each other, from Picasso and Miro to Jenny Holzer and Elizabeth Murray. AT&T;, which sponsored the show, hosted a buffet on MOCA's sculpture terrace.

The Buzz: During its run last year at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan, the show was the most hotly debated topic among New Yorkers since George Steinbrenner. With its newspapers, ads, comics and graffiti, "High & Low" seems made for Los Angeles, where Pop Art is a way of life. (Who is and isn't included in the show makes for a great game of Monday morning quarterbacking among your artsy friends.)

Who Was There: MOCA Director Richard Koshalek, Board of Trustees President Doug Cramer and chief curator Paul Schimmel; City Councilman Joel Wachs; AT&T; corporate marketing services director Zack Manna and Howard McNally, vice president of sales; MOCA's Kirk Varnedoe, who co-wrote the catalogue, and the usual crowd of first-night MOCA benefactors and supporters.

Dress Code: Black-tie, with license taken by certain party-goers. Case in point: the man who tucked his tux pants into his high-top sneakers.

Chow: Food stations were decorated with homages to Jeff Koons (inflatable bunnies) and Mimmo Kotella (magazine collages). Up for grabs were pizzas with the usual California toppings, gourmet sausages and veal cheeseburgers.

Everyone's a Critic: Most guests seemed impressed with the caliber and scope of the show, but there were a few dissenting voices. Opined one: "Really, no one in L. A. takes Jeff Koons seriously."

Irony: Despite press materials praising graffiti as "poetic expression" in an "untutored urban language," MOCA's building is kept scrupulously free of the stuff. Apparently graffiti belongs inside museum walls, not on them.

Triumphs: Someone climbed a giant construction crane next to the museum and hung a mirrored ball that flashed reflected dots of light on buildings along the block. Decorators had also employed high-top sneakers as flower vases.

Glitches: Veal cheeseburgers? It takes chutzpah to serve veal at a party these days, especially to people who consider themselves progressive. On an emotional level, it's one step away from baby seal kebabs.

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